In my October 16th piece, I discussed the idea that 2008 may have been a “realigning” election that ushered in a new wave of Democratic dominance. Here are two more articles that make a compelling case that that is the case:
One from the New Republic
Another from Politico
The centers of the New Economy are all clearly on board the Democratic train, and many of Obama’s policies will be aimed squarely at the economic base of the red states. Oil, gas and coal will decline and wind, solar, ethanol and maybe nuclear will rise. Large scale agriculture will be more regulated, while small scale local farming will be nurtured. Highway spending will be reduced and public transport will rise. Imports of low-cost consumer goods will suffer relative to exports of capital goods. Military spending will likely be restricted. Formerly Republican industries like utilities, pharmaceuticals, health insurance companies, and Wall Street are basically set to become wards of the state, as, potentially, are auto manufacturers and telecommunications companies. The wholesale dismantling of the Republican power structure will make it very hard for them to recover.
In the 1960s, the GOP looked to poach the culturally conservative Jacksonian vote away from the Democrats, and it worked brilliantly under the administrations of Nixon, Reagan and Bush II. But in the process, it slowly drove away its historical base of the northern, Hamiltonian professional class voters over those same cultural issues. Now that we have entered the part of the long cycle that economic conservatism is decidedly on the decline, those voters are likely gone for good. The heavier weighting of economic issues in this election has shifted away the northern Jacksonian voters, too.
There is an interesting precedent for Obama’s coalition: that of William McKinley’s and Teddy Roosevelt’s Republican Party of the early 1900s. It combined Hamiltonians, northern Progressives and northern Jacksonians and was favored by women and minorities. This is basically Obama’s coalition.
For the GOP, the long road out likely looks like the old FDR coalition: socially conservative and economically liberal/populist. It seems weird, but the GOP, if it wants to regain an enduring majority, will need to recognize that its base is in the South, Plains and Rockies and concentrate on crafting an economic program to appeal to the middle class while abandoning its traditional ties to Wall Street and big business. The goal would be to peel the northern working class Jacksonians and minorities away from the Democrats while milking the wealth of the barons of the New Economy.
It is unlikely that such a change will occur anytime soon, however, so I’d expect the Obama coalition to endure, provided he seizes his historic opportunity.